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  • For Better or Worse, Here Come the Summer Movies of 2014

    By | May 2, 2014

    days-of-future-past-wolverine

    May is already here and the summer movie season has already started!!!

    Last year boasted a pretty great summer for movies with Superman returning to screen, Wolverine and Iron Man continuing their adventures, and Pixar getting back on track by sending their monsters to college. The summer of 2014 promises to be pretty good and is already off to a great [early] start with Captain America: The Winter Soldier smashing April box office records, ROBOCOP being better than expected, the surprisingly great LEGO Movie, and Grand Budapest Hotel becoming Wes Anderson’s biggest hit to date.

    Here are some 2014 summer movies to look out for:

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    The Amazing Spider-man 2
    Release Date: May 2
    Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx
    Director: Marc Webb

    The scoop: Marc Webb gets the summer started off right with a return to the manmade cliffs of New York City for more web-slinging and bad guy rasslin’. I was very lukewarm on the first movie and I can’t say that I’m altogether pumped to see this one either, but it does seem like many of my gripes have been fixed to a degree. I felt like the first movie’s tone was inconsistent and weird, while also never completely reaching escape velocity from the shadow cast by Sam Raimi’s Spider-man trilogy. A big part of the problem is that I’ve never bought into Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and Spider-man. He had some really great moments in the first movie, but his performance was too affected for my tastes. But the bigger problem is I felt the movie couldn’t make up its mind on whether it wanted to be a more grounded take on the character or one in which the hero does cool skateboarding moves while dunking basketballs over high school bullies. I’m hoping the second movie is a little more surer of itself and settles into its own world. One thing that is absolutely NOT up for debate, though, is the amazing effects work in these movies. They’ve perfected the slinging and soaring techniques that always looked fake and weird in Raimi’s version.

    Questions: This movie is packed to the brim with villains (Electro, Green Goblin, Rhino, and hints of others like Doc Ock and Chris Cooper’s Normal Osborn). Will it be overkill? It usually takes directors one movie to kind of get into the superhero swing (no pun intended) of things. Will Marc Webb be more sure of himself and give us the Spider-man tale that we’ve all be waiting for?

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    Godzilla
    Release Date: May 16
    Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche
    Director: Gareth Edwards

    The scoop: Everyone’s favorite fire breathing Japanese lizard (and friends!) return from the oceanic depths to wreak havoc on the West Coast. After last summer’s Pacific Rim, hopefully there will be at least a couple of Seattle coffee shops and Portland vinyl record stores still standing. This movie looks downright earth rattling and terrifying. It’s been a long time since someone’s done a giant monster movie correctly (by my estimation, 2008’s Cloverfield) and the trailers have more than done their job at ramping up my excitement for the film.

    Questions: Bryan Cranston gave one of the all-time great performances as Walter White in Breaking Bad, however he’s never shown a tremendous acting range in the movie parts he’s taken on. And to be somewhat blunt, when he’s not being menacing, he can come off as really goofy and gangly in the parts he’s played. I’m interested in seeing if Cranston can make the leap from TV legend to Hollywood leading man. I’m betting he can. I’m also curious how this movie plays with or alters Godzilla’s Japanese heritage and history. Having Ken Watanabe in the cast is a good sign that Godzilla’s heritage will be acknowledged.

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    X-Men: Days of Future Past
    Release Date: 
    May 23

    Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender
    Director: Bryan Singer

    The scoop: There is no movie that I’m looking more forward to this summer than X-Men: Days of Future Past. It looks like they’ve finally figured out what fans want to see: countless mutants interacting together and doing some pretty epic things. Things like dropping football stadiums on freeways, opening portals in mid-air, running at Usain Bolt’s jogging pace, and grossing people out with Wolverine’s very non-adamantium finger nail claws. Each trailer has built upon the last and has only ramped up my excitement for this movie, with me having watched this final trailer an almost embarrassing amount of times.

    Questions: There’s no getting around it, how will the accusations brought against Bryan Singer effect how people view this movie? Singer is a borderline-brilliant director, with his first X-Men (released way back in 2000) really kickstarting this current comic book movie wave that every following summer has enjoyed riding. There’s no real way for many people to distance the man from the work of art that he’s created. I’m guessing any mixed-feelings I have towards the guy will disappear about five minutes in, when Wolverine unleashes his claws for the first time; but it will be something that’s there in the back of my mind the entire time I watch the movie. Also, how is Professor Xavier walking around? Wasn’t he shot and paralyzed in X-Men: First Class? Will Professor Xavier accepting his wheelchair be something that’s worked out through the movie? How will the two timelines reconcile with one another?

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    Maleficent
    Release Date: May 30
    Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Juno Temple
    Director: Robert Stromberg

    The scoop: Angelina Jolie is the “evil” witch who places the fair Aurora into a deep slumber in a retelling of the Disney classic Sleeping Beauty. From the looks of it, this movie will give us Maleficent’s full story, which will cast more light onto whether or not Maleficent is truly evil or just misunderstood. It’s like Wicked only minus the singing (presumably… hopefully) and with crazier cheekbones.

    Questions: Will there be any more scenery left after Angelina Jolie’s done chewing it all up in what seems like an awesomely campy performance? I love it when actors of her stature and talent take on parts which allow them to own the screen they’re on.

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    Edge of Tomorrow
    Release Date: 
    June 6

    Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Jeremy Piven
    Director: Doug Liman

    The scoop: Tom Cruise wakes up in the same nightmarish battle against an alien species over and over and over again. It’s like Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers, but with sillier running. When done correctly, the guy repeating the same day over and over is a fun concept to see played out on screen; but when not done correctly, it can become tedious and somewhat predictive (whatever you’re doing at the beginning of the movie, do the opposite). Doug Liman does have an eye for imaginative action scenes and it’ll be great seeing the twists and turns this movie (hopefully) has. It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited for a Tom Cruise movie.

    Questions: I’m curious if they’ll explain why he’s in the time loop. Is it just a freak occurrence or will the “why” of it be explained in the story?

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    How to Train Your Dragon 2
    Release Date: 
    June 13

    Starring: Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett
    Director: Dean DeBlois

    The scoop: The residents of Berk, both dragon and human-alike, return for more soaring and dragon-frolicking mixed with epic Vikings-inspired action. The first How to Train Your Dragon was a surprisingly great movie, complete with inspired casting, a great score, and flying scenes that rivaled anything James Cameron did with his masterful Avatar. I’m excited to see what’s in store for the sequel.

    Questions: Did the people at Dreamworks Animation reveal too much by showing that Cate Blanchett’s dragon taming character is Hiccup’s mom? Also, will Hiccup lose more limbs? It’d be pretty great if we could track each sequel by the number of limbs Hiccup still has intact at the end of each movie. The first movie is, by my estimation, a modern animated classic. Will the second be equally as great? Dreamworks Animation sequels have always fallen short of their predecessors, while still being pretty dang good (Shrek 2, Kung Fu Panda 2).

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    22 Jump Street
    Release Date: June 13
    Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Nick Offerman
    Director: Phil Lord, Chris Miller

    The scoop: Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are on a bit of a Hollywood hit streak with The LEGO Movie, the first 21 Jump Street, and the two (surprisingly good) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies. Will that hot streak continue with 22 Jump Street which sees Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill taking their undercover cop ways to college? The first one was a bit of a surprise for me. Jonah Hill has proven to be a thief, in that he steals almost every movie he’s in (Superbad, Moneyball, and The Wolf of Wall Street); but Channing Tatum showcasing his comedic talents was the real surprise of the first movie. I’m glad that they’re reuniting yet again in 2014 (they paired up again in The LEGO Movie as Superman and Green Lantern) and secretly hope that they turn out to become a packaged deal for future comedies.

    Questions: Comedy sequels have a spotty track record, at best. Writing and performing comedy is hard; often times, the funnier more inspired bits are done in the first movie leaving the second movie to feel like a retread of the original movie. Will this follow suit? Will Lord and Miller continue their winning comedic ways? If the movie is another hit, will it get Jonah Hill into the Magic Mike sequel? [shudders]

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    Transformers: Age of Extinction
    Release Date: June 27
    Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Stanley Tucci
    Director: Michael Bay

    The scoop: Michael Bay spent a little bit of time between Transformers: Dark of the Moon and this movie contemplating whether or not he wanted to return to the movie franchise that served as his own personal ATM or whether he wanted to take his brand of high octane sexism and carnage to new cinematic avenues (maybe GoBots?). He opened a map, saw some cities he hadn’t destroyed in a movie yet and decided to give it one more go. With Shia LaBeouf giving us all cinematic whiplash by going from movies directed by Michael Bay to ones directed by Lars von Trier, Michael Bay set his sights on his Pain and Gain star Mark Wahlberg to help get the Transformers and the Dinobots to theaters this summer.

    Questions: The Autobots and Decepticons transform into cars and tanks in order to hide from humans out to do them harm. What’s the point of a robot hiding as a T-Rex?

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    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    Release Date: July 11
    Starring: Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Jason Clarke
    Director: Matt Reeves

    The scoop: The apes and monkeys return (what, no Monkees?) to further subjugate mankind in the follow up to beyond competent, borderline great Rise of the Planet of the Apes. When we last left things, humanity was in the midst of being wiped out by a deadly virus, while Caesar and his band of merry apes were off to live in the beautiful forests of Northern California, presumably with the similarly furry and NoCal-residing Robin Williams. The sequel picks up at some point in the future, jumping to Gary Oldman fighting to keep a small band of humans together. Seeing how these movies are distant-prequels to the original Planet of the Apes movies, I’m guessing that things probably don’t end so well.

    Questions: What happened to James Franco? From the looks of it, he was as surprised as anyone that he was in the sequel. With the ultimate end being humanities destruction, how dark will the sequel be allowed to go? From the looks of the trailer, pretty damn dark.

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    Jupiter Ascending
    Release Date: 
    July 18

    Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne
    Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

    The scoop: The Wachkowski siblings offer another mind-bending sci-fi outing. In Jupiter Ascending, a lowly cleaning lady is actually the queen of the galaxy… or of Jupiter… or something. The effects look amazing and the action scenes looks clean, inspired, and brimming with imaginative sci-fi elements. Channing Tatum shows up with elven Spock ears to save the day and to make the ladies swoon. It’s an interesting concept and god knows I’m glad it’s not a sequel or a remake, but the Wachowskis track record since the first Matrix movie has been spotty, at best. Mila Kunis looks game as both the cleaning lady and also someone who could conceivably be the ruler of a distant civilization. Can’t wait to see what’s in store from two of the most imaginative minds working in sci-fi today.

    Questions: In a Hollywood where sequels and remakes rule, will audiences turn out for an “original” (come on, it’s probably the same Joseph Campbell hero quest we’ve seen a thousand times) concept? Also, will Sean Bean survive this movie?

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    Guardians of the Galaxy
    Release Date:
     August 1

    Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel
    Director: James Gunn

    The scoop: Marvel is on an unprecedented hitting streak and will dip its toes into a space adventure saga with Guardians of the Galaxy. Even if you’ve never read a Captain America, Iron Man, or Thor comic book or seen one of the various Marvel animated shows in which they make an appearance, you kind of know who those characters are by both their design and from them being culturally relevant enough that you could pick them out of a lineup. The Guardians of the Galaxy is a whole other ballgame. I’d imagine you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who could describe a single characteristic of this story. The trailer shows off what looks like a rollicking mix of comedy and action-adventure set pieces on par with Lucas’s… no… I can’t make that comparison yet. But you can tell that the apple doesn’t fall far from the talking tree. The trailer is great and serves as a decent introduction into these characters. The ratio of comedy to adventure seems pretty on par with the other Marvel movies.

    Questions: While I was not a big fan of Iron Man 3, the movie was a smash hit, currently sitting at number 5 on the all-time worldwide box office grosses list. Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier is another critical and box office hit. Will that streak continue with the almost completely unknown Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy? I think this movie is Marvel’s biggest test and I’m curious to see if audiences turn up for an epic tale of rogues, heroes, talking trees, and a machine-gun firing raccoon-like creature. My first reaction when seeing the trailer was that it also reminded me a tad of Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    Release Date:
    August 8

    Starring: Megan Fox, CGI “Turtles,” William Fitchner
    Director: Jonathan Liebesman

    The scoop: Let’s just get one thing clear right now. Michael Bay does not care about your adolescence or your childhood. His Platinum Dunes production company has remade everything from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Amityville Horror to this summer’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, each one leading fans to say things like “… it was okay… not horrible” and “That was decent. What’s for dinner?” and then forgetting about the movie for the rest of their lives. Michael Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman bring their dedication to mediocrity to this summer’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I should add, though, that my 3-year old son and 6-year old daughter think this is THE summer movie this year. I’ve already been asked if we’re seeing this one a hundred times. Well played, Michael Bay. Well played.

    Questions: A white Shredder? Is it possible that Megan Fox actually does a good job as April O’Neil? Will fans ever quit whining that the Ninja Turtles don’t have bulbous noses and are instead a little more anthropomorphized? Are fans ultimately correct on that last point? Does it matter? What’s for dinner?

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    The Expendables
    Release Date: Aug. 15
    Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford

    The scoop: Your favorite stars from the 1980s, 90s, and today are all back to prove that they’ve still got it while hoping you actually forget what made them great in the first place! To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a big fan of these movies. They’re serviceable enough, but I’ve always felt they were fairly weak action movies because they rely on the fumes of these guys’ great movies, instead of giving us a great movie in and of itself. Yes, it’s great seeing Arnold back doing Arnold things, but just holding a gun and saying a one-liner isn’t what made those movies great back in the day. It’s all about context. And these movies don’t provide enough of a compelling plot for me to look past the fact that these are essentially cash grabs by all involved.

    Questions: Wait…what? Kelsey Grammer? KELSEY GRAMMER? How did Dr. Frasier Crane make the cut? Also, will Harrison Ford FINALLY wear his earring in a movie? It’s what we’ve all been waiting to see.

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    Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
    Release Date: 
    August 22

    Starring: Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba
    Director: Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller

    The scoop: I was a fan of Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City and am looking forward to seeing what’s in store for this thematically and cinematographically dark material. The first one was pretty fun and seemed to be the culmination of Robert Rodriguez’s experiments with his in-house SFX work. You could tell that he really liked Frank Miller’s graphic novel and Sin City turned out to be both a faithful and imaginative interpretation of the graphic novel. While I’m not really a fan of much of Rodriguez’s post-90s work, it should be fun seeing him get back to darker, grittier work.

    Questions: The sequel comes almost a full decade after the first movie. Have audiences moved on?

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    Interstellar
    Release Date: November 7
    Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine
    Director: Christopher Nolan

    The scoop: Okay… this isn’t a summer movie. But as a Christopher Nolan fanboy, there is no action movie I’m looking more forward to than this one. I’m cheating here, but I want to keep this on my radar until the Fall. Few directors have a hotter box office and critical acclaim hit streak than Christopher Nolan. Can’t wait to see what’s in store for audiences this November.

    Questions: Can I wait until November to see this movie? Will Hans Zimmer completely obliterate our eardrums with his score?

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